Agriculture Sec. Rolls Back School Nutrition Standards – Gives New Meaning To ‘Let’s Move’ (VIDEO)

It’s starting to appear as though the Trump administration’s primary objective is to erase any legacy the first Black President of the United States took eight years to build.

From a slew of executive orders rolling back regulations regarding the environment, healthcare, immigration, and national security, to cabinet appointees obviously sent to dismantle the departments they were chosen to lead, to an infuriating House vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, comes another blow to progress: school lunches.

Monday, the Trump administration partially rolled back federal nutrition standards former First Lady Michelle Obama promoted as part of her “Let’s Move” healthy eating initiative.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue said his department will delay an upcoming requirement designed to lower the sodium content in meals, and he will continue to allow waivers for regulations requiring all grains offered on lunch lines be 50 percent whole grain. Schools could also offer 1 percent flavored milk instead of nonfat now required, in part because of an April 28 letter New York Rep. John Faso, (R-Kinderhook) and 12 other lawmakers sent Purdue.

Purdue made his announcement at Catoctin Elementary in Leesburg, Va. with Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.). Purdue said:

“If kids aren’t eating the food, and it’s ending up in the trash, they aren’t getting any nutrition — thus undermining the intent of the program.”

But Purdue doesn’t see this move as rescinding; he prefers to consider it “slowing down the process.” He praised Michelle Obama’s nutrition endeavors, but claimed he wants healthier and more palatable meals.

The Obama administration established regulations for fat, sugar, and sodium content on food mostly served in school, which have long been required to follow government nutrition standards if they accepted federal reimbursements for free and reduced-price meals for low-income students. The stricter nutrition standards were part of Michelle Obama’s campaign to combat childhood obesity.

The Trump administration’s changes leaves prior rules in place, including those requiring students supplement their lunches with fruits and vegetables. Some schools have asked for changes to that policy, though, citing students often throw away their fruit and vegetables.

Since 2014, elementary school lunches are required to contain less than 1,230 mg of sodium. The new changes would keep sodium at that level, but delay until 2020 a requirement scheduled to begin in the 2017-2018 school year that sodium levels be lowered to 935 mg.

Health advocates are concerned.

Margo Wootan, a lobbyist for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said:

“By forgoing the next phase of sodium reduction, the Trump Administration will be locking in dangerously high sodium levels in school lunch.”

For the past five years since schools have been serving healthier meals, students have naturally gotten used to them. Nutrition directors like Becky Domokos-Bays, nutrition director for Loudon County, Va., says some aspects of the Obama law are still frustrating, though, specifically finding food high in whole grains students find appealing. Nutrition directors have stated they have difficulty locating whole grain pastas, biscuits, and tortillas kids will eat.

Many do not want to see any changes to the healthier meals. Outside Catoctin Elementary during Purdue’s visit, Leesburg mayor Kelly Burk and about 20 others protested ahead of the announcement. One protester’s sign read:

“Sonny — Our children do not want big business soda, chips and fries!”

Mayor Burk said:

“Some people don’t like regulations, but these are important regulations that impact kids.”

Featured Image: Screenshot Via YouTube Video.

Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, and Medium.